About 300 experts representing the 36 countries discussed the threat and control of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons this weekend in Albuquerque at the 11th Annual International Arms Control Conference.
Dr. James Brown of Sandia National Laboratories is the conference's founder. He said it is a unique gathering because it allows for the free flow of thoughts from its participants.
"This conference is all about bringing people together to talk about issues from the perspective of individuals rather than government, so that puts the playing field at a different level, and it permits people to talk about things without committing a government," he said. "I think the informality of everything works out nicely."
The conference guests ranged from Ambassador Abdallah Baali, Algeria's representative to the United Nations and organizer of last year's Nonproliferation Treaty Conference, to Ambassador Wolfgang Hoffmann, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.
The symposium is hosted annually by Sandia National Laboratories' Division of National Security and Arms Control. The division's mission includes helping political and technical experts from around the globe acquire the technology needed to monitor and control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
UNM chemistry professor Ed Walters said it was too bad that the conference did not receive more attention from UNM.
"It very well seems that there is an international hotplate for activity in this area," he said. "I don't think the university is participating as well as it could. It would be very valuable for students and faculty to have more exposure to the caliber of people that are involved right now, just right here."
Walters said he thought the discussions hit on a variety of different topics and were very interesting.
"There aren't many other places you can go to get this level of discussion amongst people who are concerned about world future," he said.
The event has grown during the past 11 years.
"The first conference had about 75 people, and now we've grown to something like 300," Brown said. "In the first conference we had about three countries, and now we have 36, so it's grown quite large."
Panelists spoke for 10 minutes, then answered audience questions. The process allowed the conference to move swiftly and created room for interaction between guests.
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"This is a very nice opportunity to get an impression of strategic issues that the United States has to deal with as a world power," said Samo Zanoskar, acting chief of international military cooperation department for the Republic of Slovenia.
Dr. Harold Muller of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, said that one of his country's key objectives is to always know where the United States stands on many of the issues covered at the conference.
"I will definitely take this information back to my constituents," he said.